Our Flat Hunt (and House Hunters International)

I’ve meant to post about our actual flat hunt for about… geeze, I guess it’s been about a year. Well, there’s no better time than now, seriously, it’s time. Why? Now I can fess up and admit that we filmed an episode of House Hunters International. Our episode will air on the 15th of July on HGTV. Some people still believe that House Hunters films people in the actual process of searching for their homes and I apologize if I am ruining that fantasy for you but that’s absolutely not the reality. I am posting this to share what our actual search for a flat looked like, which is not even close to what you’ll see on HHI. After the episode airs I will post a “Part Two” to this post that talks about our experience filming HHI. I will say right now that it was fun, stressful, and paid a month’s worth of our bills, so no regrets even though neither of us had any interest in ever being on TV. Ok, let’s get going here, this is a long post.

Here’s how my overly optimistic American brain thought our flat search would go: we’ll start in an Airbnb, two weeks in we’ll know if we want to live in Edinburgh or Glasgow (because we’ll have job leads of course), third week we’ll search and find a place, by the one month mark we’ll be living in our new place. Right. First, I really had a difficult time finding an Airbnb that accepted dogs and didn’t charge £5,000 per month, mostly due to the time of year. Second, the only place I found within our budget was only available for the month of July… we thought that’d be enough time. We moved to Scotland during festival season and also as university students were preparing to flood in, terrible timing.

So there we were two weeks in and we decided to search in Glasgow. We both loved Edinburgh but felt there might be more opportunity for us in Glasgow, amongst other things, it felt like a good plan. We started searching for flats on Rightmove and quickly learned that if you’re serious about trying to find a place then don’t email letting agents, call them. Over here email can be a good way to guarantee not hearing from a company for a week or two, if at all. We started calling letting agencies about listings and very quickly learned that finding a place that will allow our two dogs would be a challenge. I remember seeing one post in a FB group from someone who had so much trouble finding a place that would accept dogs that they actually gave their dog away. WTF?! Giving up our dogs was absolutely not an option, absolutely freaking not, they’re family and are not expendable. I knew that no matter how hard the search was that it was not an option to not find a place that accepts dogs, there was no choice but for it to work out.

For every twenty listings or so maybe 2 of them were open to dogs but first we had to go look at the property, submit an email of interest and see if the landlord would consider dogs at that point. Then on top of that challenge was the sheer competition for flats. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a huge population of students and while I’ve heard flat hunting can be tricky year around, we were looking at the worst possible time. There were flats that we called on only a few hours after they were posted and viewings were already full. Before we knew it we were days away from having to leave our Airbnb and as luck would have it I found a place right around the corner that was willing to take us and our dogs but she only had two weeks open and after that we would be S.O.L. since I couldn’t find anything else on Airbnb.

After constant rejection we finally found a lovely flat in Glasgow. The price was higher than we wanted to pay but it sounded like the landlords might allow pets, the area was good, the flat was nice and we were running out of time to find a place, so we applied. We never actually filled out an application but rather submitted an email to the letting agency expressing our interest in the flat, telling them about us and our dogs… basically selling ourselves to the landlords since the email was to get forwarded to them and they would make the decision. God bless them, they decided to take a chance on us and our dogs.

The process of getting accepted and moving into our flat didn’t go quickly like it does in the U.S., but I’ll say it went smoothly enough. We ended up being able to move into our flat one day before we were looking at having to move into a hotel, or a tent, or a box. It was such a relief to finally have a place, a real address that was ours, and to not live out of our suitcases anymore. We didn’t even have a bed for the first few days but that didn’t matter, we had keys.

The flat search was more overwhelming than I could have ever anticipated. I know that it’ll be easier next time we move (likely to a cheaper place in Glasgow) since we won’t be on a timeline to get out, we understand the process, and so on. My recommendations to anyone moving to Edinburgh or Glasgow, who are starting in a similar way as us, are:

  • Be prepared to pay six months rent plus deposit up front (if you don’t have a bank account, job, rental history in the UK, etc.)
  • Plan on your search process taking a month to two months after you arrive. I’d say a month and a half if you don’t have dogs and two if you do. Understand that it’s not a matter of just finding a place, getting accepted and moving in, the timeline from applying for a place to moving in can take several weeks.
  • You generally have to submit an email of interest in a property (sometimes along with an application), so really sell yourself in that email. Why should the landlords choose you (note that letting agents represent landlords, they’re two separate entities)?
  • House Hunters International is not reality. You are unlikely to find an agent that will take you around to listings or even compile listings for you. You have to let the letting agency know which properties you’re interested in, as they are generally reluctant to look up properties that match your criteria for you. They’re not there to represent you but rather the landlord, so don’t expect them to bend over backwards to help you.
  • If you can help it, don’t house hunt in July and August. It’s especially brutal. Clearly it’s not impossible, we did it, but I just wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Try to keep faith that you’ll find something, even when it seems like nothing is working out. You’ve got this far, there’s no going back, it is not an option for you to not find a place, it will happen!

Remember this is unique to our situation. Some people may not have the issues we did; however, for those that do struggle with this I just want them to know it’s not impossible.

So there you have it folks, a summary of our house hunt. It was an awful experience, it created a lot of frustration resulting in the husband and I having a few heated arguments (we don’t argue much at all normally), we didn’t have the option of being picky like they lead you to believe in House Hunters. I haven’t seen our episode yet and up until recently I was committed to never watching the episode because it’s so awkward; however, I can’t comment on it if I haven’t seen it and I know people I know will have questions, so I’ve decided I’ll watch the damn thing. Haha! Alright, that’s all for now, until Part Two!

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